Day 4: 10 (Interesting) Things About Me


I’m going to cheat a bit on this one…

Nearly seven years ago, back when publishing notes on Facebook was a thing, I responded to the request from a friend to post 25 Random Things About Me.  I was surprised that I had 26 things to post, even though I probably could’ve condensed a few of them into a single item.  So, in the interest of conservation (reduce, reuse, recycle), I’m going to use some of that list here.

I put interesting in parentheses in the title because I’m not sure everyone will find these 10 things interesting.  Here’s hoping!

  1. I found out that I was adopted when I was nearly 30 years old and my firstborn was about 4 weeks old.  My “Aunt Cheryl” is really my mom.  Needless to say, this was some pretty earth-shaking news, especially in my hormonally challenged state.  Two years later, John helped me find my birth father.  So now I have four parents (though one is deceased), and my kids have six grandparents.  I’m also now no longer the only child I thought I was.  I have 5 brothers and sisters (again, one is deceased).  In the end, finding all this out was a tremendous blessing.
  2. I met my husband in 8th grade.  We sat across from each other in home room.  He thought I was cute.  I thought he was weird.  In 9th grade, I dated his best friend (who turned out to be gay — just my luck…).  We did eventually begin to date, right before he moved to Vermont.  I broke up with him on Valentine’s Day.  It took nearly two years and the kissing of MANY frogs to get me to see the mistake I’d made in dumping him.  We’ve been together since 1988 and married since 1992.
  3. Our daughter was born in the back seat of a 1997 Lincoln Town Car at the corner of 104th Street and Riverside Drive in NYC.  John delivered her.  This was the first of several diva moments she’s had in her nearly 18 years of life.  Giving birth to her was a life-changing experience for me.  I’ve never been the same since.
  4. Singing was my first musical expression.  I first remember “being caught” singing by my mother when I was 3.  We had just recently gone to a wedding, and the two musicians sang the song “September” from The Fantastiks.  That’s what I was singing to myself in my room as I played with my blocks.  Mom thought it was the radio.  When she figured out it was me, she carried me to her bedroom and made me sing it again for my dad.  I still remember the look on their faces; they looked at me as if I were some kind of freak.  That has, unfortunately, followed me since.
  5. I am a violist today, and have been since I was 16, but I started off playing violin.  Violin wasn’t even my first choice of instrument.  I wanted to play French Horn like my Aunt Mary Ann, but my parents didn’t want me to do ANYTHING  Mary Ann did.  So I talked them into letting me play violin.  They never really supported my love of music, often telling me that Black folks didn’t play stringed instruments or play Classical music.  Again, they made me feel like a freak for loving music and wanting to do it professionally.  They never have understood what I do.  This had been one of the saddest things in my life for many years.
  6. I wore braces on my teeth from the age of 22 to 25.  I still had on my bottom braces on my wedding day.  While it really sucked at the time, the investment in my smile was worth the pain.
  7. I love to practice and perform solo Bach more than any other music in the entire world.  It is the purest expression of who I am as a musician.
  8. Beethoven is my favorite composer.  When I was in Germany, I took the train from Cologne to Bonn to visit the Beethovenhaus Museum.  On the top floor, there is the room where he was born.  I remember standing in the doorway and crying like a baby at the thought of such greatness coming into the world in such a tiny space.  I also cry every time I hear or play the third movement of his Ninth Symphony.  I’ve been a musician for decades and I’ve heard and played a lot of music, but I’ve never heard anything more lovely and moving than that.
  9. I had an out of body experience the only time I ever performed the Shostakovich Viola Sonata.  I dedicated that particular performance to a friend of mine who had just died of AIDS.  While playing, I burst into tears during the climax of the last movement.  For many years, I remembered every note.  It was a really powerful experience.
  10. My son’s autism has been the biggest challenge for me.  Every view I ever had on raising children, education, and the way the world views the differently abled has been challenged, tested, and reevaluated.  There have been times when I literally thought I couldn’t raise him and that God had given him the wrong mother.  However, I have come to see that his triumphs outnumber his defeats and that he does benefit from my presence in his life.  Sometimes I think he’s raising me because he’s taught me so much.  He’s a beautiful boy and I love him so much.  It’s hard to watch the world misunderstand him, or to see his peers going on to do things he’s not ready to tackle.  All I can do is pray and do everything I can to make him as strong and capable as possible.  No one will limit this child as long as I’m alive.  Only the sky is his limit, no matter what anyone else may think.  I will never give up on him.  He is my sweet young man.

So, there are the 10 things I chose to share/disclose.  Interesting?  Perhaps.  Good for me?  As an exercise, this was absolutely perfect for me, especially on New Year’s Eve.  Tomorrow is a new day and a new year.  Maybe I’ll have a whole new list to share next December 31.


First Love, First Kiss

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Day three

This prompt got me thinking and I must admit I’m at a loss.

My first kiss was extremely inappropriate because it came from a 19 year old when I was only about 5. This young man molested me and left an invisible scar that took years to heal. His name was Jessie.

I’d rather not think about that.

The first kiss I chose to give was to a boy in my first grade class named Steven. He had dark auburn hair and a few missing teeth (we were that age). His face was full of freckles and his brown eyes sparkled. I had only ever had one other major crush in my brief years: the late Bruce Lee (come on, he was GORGEOUS!). Steven and I sat together and sometimes ate lunch together before playing together at recess. I can actually remember the feeling of my heart fluttering when he smiled at me.

One afternoon on the slide, which was shaped like a big pyramid without the point on top, Steven and I were sitting and talking. I timidly confessed that I liked him and he said he liked me too. I seized the moment and kissed him gently on the cheek. Steven smiled at me right before he turned to go down the slide. He smiled at me!

He missed the next week of school. Chicken pox. Luckily, I didn’t get it then.

That kiss may not have been the stuff of romantic legend or passionate lore, but it has stuck with me for over 40 years. We probably wouldn’t recognize each other after all this time, and Steven may not even remember that day at all. That memory is mine to keep.

What of my first love? I have been in love many times, and each of those loves were dear to me in unique ways. There was the one to first open my heart and then break it to pieces when he left me for someone else. There was the first man I loved just as I was becoming a woman. There have been those who first spoke to my mind on the way to winning my heart, and those with whom the chemistry was so strong it was like being consumed by fire.

The only one of these loves that truly merits discussion here is the one I share with my husband — the love of my life.

He was not my first love. Our love was not the passionate conflagration that burned out before it had a chance to take root. We began as friends. Over time, we came to love each other more and more. It became clear that our bond was strong enough to withstand the stresses of the world around us, and that nothing could ever break it. That love has been challenged many times over the years. We are still together.

It doesn’t matter which love was my first. My marriage to John is my last love, and my greatest. The others before got me ready to receive this gift. I am thankful for all of them and the lessons they taught me. Most of all, I am glad to have found a kind of love that not everyone finds in life. First isn’t always best. True love is worth waiting for.

My Earliest Memory

Day two’s prompt: my earliest memory.

For years, my earliest memory was of being a baby at a drive-in movie. My parents were watching something on the big screen while my mom was trying to change my diaper. This was the late 60s when disposable diapers were new, but they were still fastened with pins.

My first memory is of my mother sticking me with one of those pins. My very first memory of my life in this world is pain, and the sound of my own screams.

This was not the last time I felt pain. I have felt the pain of childhood’s scratches, scrapes, and skinned knees. I have felt the pain of pulled teeth and pierced ears. I’ve withstood the pain of labor and childbirth twice, and recently the painful recovery from the surgery that took my womb from my body. The pain of a broken heart has left my body wracked with sobs. The pain of grief has touched me many times, especially at the loss of my grandmother and father. Pain has punctuated my life many, many times. Sometimes it has been unbearable.

However, without that pain I would not be able to understand or appreciate joy. I’m thankful for that.

Whatever my first memory may be, I am made of all of my memories, pains, and joys. It was all necessary to make me who I am.

The Evils of Facebook

This is the first day of a 30 day writing challenge that I’m trying. There’s a prompt everyday. The prompt for today is five problems with social media.

I’m torn about this, honestly. Social media, primarily Facebook, has been the way I’ve stayed connected to my friends and family since I left NYC for Ohio. Without it, I would’ve lost touch with hundreds of people and never connected with about 2,000 of my former classmates, colleagues, and students.

Still, there are certainly drawbacks to social media in all its incarnations. It is a tremendous time suck. There’ve been countless times that I’ve gone on Facebook for “5 minutes” and stepped away from it 2 hours later. I had other things to do, but I fell down the rabbit hole and got caught up looking through the list of “people you may know”. Tablets and smartphones make checking one’s Facebook timeline far too easy and many of us (myself included) check in more than we should. I’m guessing I look at the app on my phone upwards of 10 times a day.

Surely there’s something better I could do with my time.

At last count I had nearly 2,600 “friends” on Facebook. Wow. That’s a lot of people! Do I know them all? Surprisingly, I know most of them. I’ve been fortunate to teach over 1,000 students in the last 25 years, and many of them are friends of mine on Facebook. I’ve also been lucky in my work to have hundreds of colleagues and fellow musicians around the world, many of whom I do know well. Still, there are a lot of folks who pop up in my timeline whom I don’t readily recognize.

Facebook turns people into numbers. Our relationships on Facebook are most often superficial and casual. We “talk” to the same few people everyday and rarely have contact with others on our list. We know people, but we don’t “know” them. Facebook is an artificial construct that simulates human contact and takes the place of it. It is virtual, not actual, friendship.

The Internet has become a place where people feel able to say the nastiest things without any thought or fear of retribution. Racism, rape, violence, and anti-Islamic rhetoric are all over the Internet, and folks on comment threads are the most common culprits. Trolls spew out their fiery negativity and then sit back to watch the world burn. Facebook is no exception to this foolishness. It saddens me to see the things people say when they think no one can correct or reprimand them. All their manners and reason fly out the window, as well as their ability to tell actual facts from what they’ve “heard”. Hearsay is NOT knowledge, yet it gets ignorantly spread around like a pound of butter on a slice of toast. Sometimes it’s humorous, sometimes it’s maddening, but mostly it’s just pathetic.

Then we have the spoilers. Sometimes folks will see a popular movie and talk about it in detail on Facebook later, with no regard for those of us who haven’t seen it yet. Or there are the folks in the UK who get to see Downton Abbey seasons before those of us in America. Social media is a great forum for discussion, but we need to be more careful where and when those discussions take place. It’s hard to be that vigilant all the time, but it’s worth it in the end. I know quite a few folks I’d thank if they were more discreet.

Finally, I need to make a confession. I am an over-sharer. My Facebook statuses are loaded with stuff about me that maybe – just maybe – you don’t want or need to know. The temptation to use Facebook as a type of confessional is real. Sometimes my confessions are funny or cynical, sometimes touching or sentimental, and sometimes far too revealing. They are the children of an impulsive mind. But that’s the lure of Facebook. It gets you to post things without thinking because of its immediacy. It’s all about what you’re thinking NOW. The catch is that you can’t get those thoughts back once they’re out there. Anyone can see them: future spouses, former lovers, and future employers. Without thinking about it we often post today something that will bite us in the ass tomorrow. Why not? Facebook tells us it’s okay.

If we don’t think about it, Facebook is a fun and harmless past time that connects us to friends and family all over the world. That’s not so bad, right?

When we do put our minds to it, Facebook is a place that merits more than a little care and consideration in its use. We must be mindful of who we are seen to be, not just out in the world but in the world of the Internet as well. It may be called social media, but it lacks manners and social graces — unless, of course, we remember to bring them with us to the party.